Césaire, Aimé

Césaire, Aimé

Césaire, Aimé (Aimé Fernand Césaire) (ĕmāˈ fĕrnäNˈ sāzârˈ), 1913–2008, West Indian poet and essayist who wrote in French. After studying in Paris he became concerned with the plight of blacks in what he considered a decadent Western society. With Léopold Senghor and Léon Damas he formulated the concept of négritude, which urged blacks to reject assimilation and cultivate consciousness of their own racial qualities and heritage. Césaire voiced this idea through poetry, collected in such volumes as Les armes miraculeuses (1946) and Ferrements (1960) and in the essay Discours sur le colonialisme (1950, tr. 1972). In addition to his literary output, which comprises poetry, plays, and historical essays on black leaders, Césaire helped Martinique shed the colonialism he abhorred and become (1946) a French overseas department. He held a number of government positions, including that of mayor (1945–83, 1984–2001) of Martinique's capital, Fort-de-France, and also was a member (1946–56, 1958–93) of France's National Assembly.


See his Collected Poetry (tr. 1984); studies by S. Frutkin (1973), A. J. Arnold (1981, repr. 2000), R. L. Scharfman (1987), and G. Davis (1997).

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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Césaire, Aimé


Born June 25, 1913, in Basse-Pointe, Martinique. Martinican writer. Writes in French.

In the narrative poem Return to My Native Land (1939; complete edition, 1947), Césaire passionately defended the dignity of the oppressed black man, scattered throughout the world. During the 1940’s and 1950’s his work was greatly influenced by surrealism, which he perceived as a form of revolutionary art; the influence can be seen in the poetry collections Les Armes miraculeuses (1946) and Soleil cou-coupé (1948) and in the drama in verse Et les Chiens se taisaient (1956). In the poetry collection Ferrements (1960), Césaire abandoned surrealism. The main theme of this collection—the difficulties of the road to liberation—is also developed in the play The Tragedy of King Christophe (1963) and in the play A Season in the Congo (1966), which is devoted to P. Lumumba.


Juin, H. Aimé Césaire, poète noir. Preface by Claude Roy. Paris [1956].
Aimé Césaire. Introduction by L. Kesteloot. Paris [1966].
Aimé Césaire, écrivain martiniquais. Paris [1971].
Harris, R. E. L’Humanisme dans le théâtre d’Aimé Césaire. Ottawa, 1973.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.